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Links for the Day: B.B. King Dies at 89, Cate Blanchett Interview, Richard Brody’s Advice for Robert Downey Jr., Abel Ferrara’s Siberia Kickstarter, & More

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Links for the Day: B.B. King Dies at 89, Cate Blanchett Interview, Richard Brody’s Advice for Robert Downey Jr., Abel Ferrara’s Siberia Kickstarter, & More

1. “B.B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generation, Dies at 89.” B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89.

“His death was reported early Friday by The Associated Press, citing his lawyer, Brent Bryson, and by CNN, citing his daughter, Patty King. Mr. King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love. ’I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,’ Mr. King said in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me (1996), written with David Ritz. In performances, his singing and his solos flowed into each other as he wrung notes from the neck of his guitar, vibrating his hand as if it were wounded, his face a mask of suffering. Many of the songs he sang—like his biggest hit, ’The Thrill Is Gone’ (’I’ll still live on/But so lonely I’ll be’)—were poems of pain and perseverance. The music historian Peter Guralnick once noted that Mr. King helped expand the audience for the blues through ’the urbanity of his playing, the absorption of a multiplicity of influences, not simply from the blues, along with a graciousness of manner and willingness to adapt to new audiences and give them something they were able to respond to.’”

2. “Cate Blanchett Opens the Closet Door with Lesbian Romance Carol.” For Variety, Ramin Setoodeh profiles the Oscar-winning actress, star of Todd Haynes’s new film.

“On a recent afternoon in Manhattan, lounging outside the Crosby Street Hotel with her hair in a ponytail and a shawl draped over her shoulders, Blanchett says she wasn’t convinced that Carol would ever make it to theaters. ’It was so hard,’ she recalls. ’Midrange films with women at the center are tricky to finance. There are a lot of people laboring under the misapprehension that people don’t want to see them, which isn’t true.’ And while the franchise-obsessed movie industry covets young male audiences above all else, it can no longer ignore female moviegoers—who account for at least half of ticket sales each year. Blanchett believes there is some hope. ’I think there’s been a critical mass of women who have reached a certain place in the industry,’ she says, citing Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, as well as producer Allison Shearmur, who made the Disney fairy tale about a magical glass slipper a reality. ’I want it to not be discussed anymore,’ Blanchett notes. ’But it needs to be discussed.’”

3. “Advice for Robert Downey Jr.” Richard Brody on the hyperbole of the actor’s remarks about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and what it says about the film industry.

“But there’s a decadent side to independence, too, and Downey has put his finger on it: the sense of righteousness that comes from launching a production without support from the industry and the self-satisfied humanism that often coincides with a production done locally on a small scale involving the lives of what are (unintentionally condescendingly) called ’ordinary people.’ There’s a special political failing that results—the self-congratulatory good feelings of the overtly liberal cinema. And there’s an aesthetic failing that follows as well: the shibboleth of the self-effacing director who gives his or her performers the space in which to shine, and who, in fact, makes films in which the actors are compelled to do the bulk of the work. The special mediocrity of independent films is the lack of direction and of production alike, the sense that there’s neither an infrastructure surrounding the set nor a stimulus on the set, but, rather, a faux stage on which the actors give boundlessly of themselves without keeping any true creative control.”

4. “Review: Mad Max: Fury Road.” The heavyweight champion of post-apocalyptic road carnage is back—with “a cast-iron-plated manifesto on the physics of screen action.”

“Shot in the Namib Desert of south-west Africa by DP John Seale, Fury Road has a palette that’s all ochre by day, cobalt by night. It seems that the eco-crisis which has scorched the earth has brought with it an infertility epidemic, but we are given to understand only as much of the actual mechanics of the society that has emerged since ’the world fell’ as we can glimpse in the rear-view. The camera is almost perpetually in motion, and when it isn’t, everything else is; the dialogue, mostly shouted, is half-heard over the roar of a V8 engine. This isn’t haphazard storytelling: Miller knows that stopping off for exposition breaks will cost him valuable speed. Max, Furiosa and the others speak of their world—or rather don’t speak of it—as people who are accustomed to living in it might, and save their breath for matters of practical exigency, which is to say survival. How do you steer without a wheel? Use a wrench! How do you free yourself of harpoons in the rear end of your truck? Get back there with a bolt-cutter! How do you keep a commandeered vehicle moving when you’re about to abandon ship? Use the huge, gouty foot of an obese, recently deceased steampunk J.P. Morgan with an ornate false nose and holes in his waistcoat to accommodate his chained nipple rings!”

5. “Uganda’s Tarantino and his $200 action movies.” A Ugandan film company that makes low-budget action movies in the slums has found a cult following online—one US fan liked their films so much, he abandoned New York to become an action movie star in Kampala.

“[Isaac] Nabwana’s love for films began long before he was allowed to watch any—his older brother Kizito would return from the local cinema hall and describe what he’d seen in vivid detail. ’I remember the gestures he used… there was a guy who used to crush people, so I liked that,’ says Nabwana. ’Even now I see them in my head.’ At senior school, Nabwana decided he would make his own action movies one day. ’I had that art in me, I wanted to make a movie—I had to fulfil that dream,’ he says. But there was not enough money for him to even finish school. ’So I started making bricks and digging sand to sell to people around here,’ he says. Finally, in 2006, at the age of 32, Nabwana had saved up enough to pay for the first month of a six-month course in computer maintenance. ’That was enough to know how to assemble a computer,’ he says. He then taught himself how to use editing packages such as Premiere Pro and After Effects, and borrowed a camera from a neighbour. ’And with that I started… I did not know how to write a script. But then I thought of these drama actors, how do they do it? And I started figuring it out.’”

Video of the Day: The Kickstarter video for Abel Ferrara’s Siberia:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to ed@slantmagazine.com and to converse in the comments section.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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